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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

From Today's Papers - 26 Mar 2013
Nyoma clash: 168 Armymen to face action
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 25
An Army Court of Inquiry has recommended disciplinary action against 168 personnel, including four officers, 17 junior commissioned officers and 147 jawans, for the clash that took place between officers and jawans in an artillery regiment at Nyoma in southeastern Ladakh in May last year.

A report of the Court of Inquiry presided over by Brig Ajay Talwar, Deputy General Officer Commanding, 3rd Infantry Division, has been accepted by Northern Army Commander Lt Gen KT Parnaik, sources said. This paves the way for action against the guilty.

The Tribune had reported on January 8 that the Court of Inquiry report had been submitted and had found several personnel of 226 Field Regiment (Artillery) guilty of misconduct.

Official sources said disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act may even lead to dismissal from service following a court martial.

Among those facing action are the Commanding Officer of the regiment, Col Prasad Kadam.

The fracas occurred at Mahe, near the Nyoma airfield, in Leh, 50 km from the Line of Actual Control, when a “sahayak” allegedly entered the tent of a Major unannounced after the regiment had just finished its firing practice. The Major’s wife who was present inside the tent objected to it. This prompted the officer to beat up the jawan and subsequently deny medical treatment to the injured soldier, fuelling anger among other jawans.

The situation worsened after the news reached the Commanding Officer who reportedly reprimanded the Major for his behaviour. The Major accompanied by five of his colleagues allegedly assaulted the Commanding Officer in the presence of jawans.

A full-blown fracas ensued on the night intervening May 10 and 11, leaving three officers and eight jawans, including the Commanding Officer, injured.

Line of action

    The CoI completes its probe and submits report to the 14 Corps headquarters in Leh in December
    Examines 220 witnesses, including the officers, JCOs and other ranks, besides five civilians in the process
    The Northern Army Commander confirms recommendations by the CoI for disciplinary action
    Disciplinary proceedings may lead to dismissal from service following a court martial

The fracas

    A ‘sahayak’ enters a Major’s tent, where officer’s wife is present, unannounced after firing practice
    The officer beats up the jawan; denies medical treatment to the injured soldier
    The CO reprimands the Major for his behaviour
    The Major, five other officers assault the CO
    A full-blown fracas ensues; three officers and eight jawans injured
Sikkim Scouts to be raised by 2015
Recruitment for Army’s newest Infantry regiment begins
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Gangtok, March 25
The Army’s newest infantry regiment, Sikkim Scouts, has started to take shape with recruitment exclusively from amongst the local populace being underway in the strategically vital mountainous northeastern state.

Besides enabling more people from the state to join the Army and thereby having economic spin-offs, the battalion, like other scouts units in the Army, will also have the advantage of having troops deeply familiar with the local terrain, environmental conditions and customs as well as closely associated with the local residents.

“Initially, one battalion of Sikkim Scouts is being raised which would be deployed along the Sino-Indian border and there could be the possibility of raising additional battalions in due course,” Chandra Bahadur Karki, state Minister for Rural Management and Development and Information, who is closely associated with the project, said. “We have acquired 200 acres at Ravangla in Southern Sikkim for housing the battalion’s headquarters,” he added.

“We are undertaking a three-phase recruitment drive, with the first phase being carried out this month,” Secretary Rajya Saink Board, Col DN Bhutia (retd) said. “The next phase is scheduled for April and the battalion would be ready for post-training deployment in 2015,” he added. Recruitment for the Scouts will be in addition to regular intake into the forces.

Recruits for this battalion would undergo standard basic training at the 11 Gorkha Rifles Regimental Centre at Lucknow, to which the battalion would be affiliated. Currently, infantry soldiers from Sikkim, other than officers, are inducted into the Gorkha Rifles. Troops from Sikkim are also taken into other arms and services having an all-India composition.

Sikkim Scouts is conceived on the lines of the Ladakh Scouts, the oldest of the scouts units in the Army that traces its origins to 1948. Based in Jammu and Kashmir and comprising five battalions, its Ladakhi troops acquitted themselves well in various operations and it was accorded full infantry regimental status in 2000. The Dogra Regiment and Gharwal Rifles also have scouts battalions located in Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand, respectively. The Arunachal Scouts is a recent raising with one battalion being raised in 2010 and another in the process of being formed.

Guarding China border

    Sikkim Scouts will enable more people from the state to join the Army.
    The battalion, like other scouts units in the Army, will also have the advantage of having troops deeply familiar with the local terrain and environmental conditions
    The regiment will guard the Chinese border
    Recruits for this battalion would undergo standard basic training at the 11 Gorkha Rifles Regimental Centre at Lucknow, to which the battalion would be affiliated
No mercy to those involved in helicopter deal: Antony

Kochi, March 25
Defence Minister A K Antony today said “somebody has taken money” in the controversial AgustaWestland helicopter deal and no mercy would be shown to those involved. He also said that CBI is “vigorously” pursuing the matter.

“My commitment to Parliament stands. I do feel somebody has taken money. The enquiry is at a crucial stage. We will not show mercy to anybody and will take action, however, powerful he may be,” he told reporters here when he was asked about the AgustaWestland deal.

“Please wait for some more time. There is no doubt very strict action would be taken against those involved,” he said.

The CBI had received some more crucial documents from the Defence Ministry and Italy in connection with the deal. The documents, carrying details of money trail, have been shared with the Enforcement Directorate.

The agency has already registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) against 11 people, including former IAF chief S P Tyagi, his three cousins, European middlemen and four companies.

All the suspects have refuted the allegations.

In its PE, registered to probe alleged kickbacks in the 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland deal, the CBI is looking into the role of some middlemen suspected to have influenced the deal in favour of the Italian company. — PTI
Army foils infiltration bid; Pak intruder killed
JAMMU: Army troops have scuttled an infiltration bid from across the border and shot dead a Pakistani intruder in Rajouri district along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

Suspicious movement of an intruder was detected by troops along LoC in the general area Pokhra of Naoshera sector of Rajouri on Sunday night, a defence spokesman said.

On being challenged, the intruder jumped into a drain and tried to flee, the spokesman said, adding that he was shot dead by the troops.

The body of the intruder was recovered by our troops and handed over to Naoshera police station on Monday morning, he said.

The slain intruder, identified as Mohd Maqsood and aged around 30 to 35 years, was a resident of Bhimber district of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, he said.

Pakistani currency and paper slips containing a few telephone numbers, were recovered from the body of slain intruder, he added.
Wake-up call for the Army
The recommendation made by an Army court of inquiry to impose wholesale disciplinary action against 168 personnel involved in violent clashes at a training camp should serve as an eye-opener for the Indian armed forces. What happened in May 2012 was a virtual free-for-all by personnel of the Ladakh-based 226 Field Regiment. In fact, there have been at least four such alarming breaches of discipline in the Army in recent times. Such a failure of the command and control structure warrants a review of training and operational aspects. While the Army can be justifiably proud of its apolitical, secular and disciplined ethos, better rapport and cohesion among different levels seem to be a crying need. This will require a training regime that factors in changing values and rising career aspirations and expectations of the members of a modern army. Measures to inculcate a new level of sensitisation will need to go hand in hand with this to remove any trust deficit among the different “classes” in the force. There should be a premium on morale in the forces. Significantly, a study on the high suicide rate in the Army by the Defence Institute of Psychological Research held last year that “perceived humiliation and harassment” at the hands of superiors often served as the final “trigger” for jawans to take their own lives. The demands and pressures faced by the officers should also be taken into account.

In the specific context of the Ladakh incidents, the continuance of the colonial-era institution of the sahayak, or valet, has a particular resonance. It was one of these sahayaks, Sepoy Suman Ghosh, who was thrashed by some officers for complaining about the behaviour of the wife of a Major at the camp. Although the Army announced last year that it was considering doing away with the system, thousands of enlisted men continue to serve as sahayaks, ensuring that the creases on the officers’ uniforms are sharp enough and their epaulets shine through. They take children to school and help with Army wives’ domestic and shopping chores. The system was long abandoned in the British Army. Understandably, this remains a cause of unhappiness for men enlisted to serve the country. The degree of professionalism that is required of a modern army to meet heightened challenges needs to be recognised across the ranks. The officer should lead from the front, and the soldier should be able to hold his or her head high. “My priority would be to … strengthen [the] Army's work culture and core values,” Lt Gen Bikram Singh said ahead of assuming office as the Chief of the Army Staff just a few weeks after the Ladakh incidents. It seems he has his task cut out for him.
VVIP chopper deal: CBI to seek more documents from defence ministry
NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will be seeking more documents from the ministry of defence (MoD), including its internal probe report, in the alleged payoffs made to clinch the 12 VVIP helicopter deal in favour of AgustaWestland. CBI sources said a meeting in this regard with MoD officials is likely to be held soon where these documents could be handed over to the agency.

Sources said MoD has assured the agency to provide details of an internal inquiry which was conducted into the allegations of the kickbacks to clinch the deal and the `involvement' of some officials. The ministry has carried out an inquiry and issued show cause notices to its officials, suspected to have played role in the deal, which might also be shared with the agency soon.

CBI is planning to start questioning in the connection with the FIR filed by it in the alleged bribes paid by UK-based AgustaWestland and its Italian parent firm Finmeccanica to clinch the Rs 3,546-crore deal. The agency is analyzing documents recovered during searches conducted by it besides other records to finalize a line of questioning, which is likely to begin soon.

On March 13, CBI had registered a case against Air Chief Marshal (retd.) Shashi P Tyagi, along with 12 others, for alleged cheating, corruption and criminal conspiracy in the deal. The agency alleged that during his tenure as the Air Chief, the Indian Air Force (IAF) had agreed "to reduce the service ceiling for VVIP helicopters from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres as mandatory to which it was opposing vehemently on the grounds of security constraints and other related reasons".

It alleged that reduction of service ceiling-maximum height at which a helicopter can fly under normal circumstances allowed AgustaWestland to come into the fray, else it would have been disqualified for bidding.
As Supreme Court reviews DOMA, military's same-sex couples draw attention to unequal treatment

The death certificate read "single," although the fallen soldier was not.

When it came time to inform the next of kin, casualty officers did not go to the widow's door in North Carolina, nor did she receive the flag that draped the casket of her beloved, a 29-year-old National Guard member killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.

Because federal law defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the military did not recognize the marriage of Army Sgt. Donna R. Johnson and Tracy Dice Johnson at all, rendering Johnson ineligible for the most basic survivor benefits, from return of the wedding ring recovered from the body to a monthly indemnity payment of $1,215.

"You cannot imagine the pain, to actually be shut out," said Dice Johnson, an Army staff sergeant who survived five bomb explosions during a 15-month tour in Iraq. "Not only is one of their soldiers being disrespected. Two of them are being disrespected."

As the Supreme Court prepares to consider the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, gay marriage advocates are focusing particular attention on the way they say the law dishonors gay service members and their spouses, who are denied survivor payments, plots in veterans' cemeteries, base housing and a host of other benefits that have been available to opposite-sex military couples for generations.

If the high court strikes down the DOMA, the ruling could bring sweeping changes to the way the military treats widows and widowers such as Dice Johnson, the first person to lose a same-sex spouse to war since "don't ask, don't tell" was lifted in 2011.

Although they can now serve openly, gay and lesbian service members "are anything but equal, and it's the DOMA that is really what's standing in the way," said Allyson Robinson, a West Point graduate who serves as executive director of OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender service members and veterans that filed a brief urging the court to strike down the law.

On the other side stands the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, an association of faith groups that screen chaplains for military service. It has asked justices to uphold the DOMA on the grounds that pastors and service members from religions that oppose homosexuality would find their voices silenced and their opportunities for advancement limited.

"The military has no tolerance for racists, so service members who are openly racist are not service members for long," the alliance's brief states. "And if the traditional religious views on marriage and family become the constitutional equivalent of racism, the many service members whose traditional religious beliefs shape their lives will be forced out of the military."

Retired Col. Ron Crews, the group's executive director, said Congress could find ways to honor war widows such as Dice Johnson without striking down the DOMA, which he said had served as "a wall" protecting military personnel with strong religious beliefs since the ban on openly gay service members was eliminated.

Before he left office in February, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to extend to same-sex partners of military personnel certain benefits not precluded by the DOMA, including ID cards giving them access to on-base services and visitation rights at military hospitals. Some of those measures would have eased Dice Johnson's grief, if they had been in place earlier.

In the future, for example, same-sex survivors of service members will be eligible to receive a deceased partner's personal effects and to be presented with the folded flag at the funeral. But many of the acknowledgements available to military spouses in opposite-sex marriages remain out of reach.

The widows of the two men who lost their lives alongside Johnson on Oct. 1 heard the news from an Army casualty officer. But Dice Johnson, 43, found out from her sister-in-law. Johnson could not list her as primary next-of-kin since the government did not recognize their marriage.

Former Rep. Joe Sestak, a retired Navy admiral who was the highest-ranking officer ever elected to Congress, said such inequities have implications for national security. Many financial protections and support services are offered to military families not just out of gratitude, but so service members can focus on their jobs during dangerous deployments, Sestak said.

"When you step back and all of a sudden realize that a law would actually prevent, today, the spouse of somebody in our military (being) notified first that that solider or that sailor has been harmed or killed ... you sit back there and say, 'What's going on?'" he said.

Dice Johnson and her wife had been together six years when they decided to get married. They waited until the military lifted the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and then exchanged vows last year on Valentine's Day in Washington, D.C. Soon after, Johnson volunteered for a second tour of duty, despite pleas from her wife and mother.

"There are a handful of things you can't tell your heart not to do. One is to serve your country, and the other is not to love who you love," Dice Johnson said.

Johnson had been in Afghanistan only a few weeks when a man wearing a vest packed with explosives drove a motorcycle into a group of soldiers on patrol in a market area in the city of Khost. Johnson was killed, along with two other members of the 514th Military Police Company, a translator, six Afghan police officers and six civilians.

When Dice Johnson learned that uniformed officers were at the North Carolina home of her mother-in-law and father-in-law, she grabbed her marriage certificate and raced over there. Johnson had requested that her wife be the first to hear in the event of her death, she said.

"I wanted to make sure they saw my face, even if they weren't going to notify me," she said. The notification officer assured her he had planned to visit her, too.

Johnson's mother, Sandra Johnson, knew how happy her daughter was to be married to Dice Johnson, and the fact that her daughter-in-law was not recognized as such outraged her. As primary next-of-kin, she made sure Dice Johnson was recognized as her daughter's wife, including insisting that she be allowed to accompany a military escort with her daughter's body.

"They hemmed and hawed, hemmed and hawed, and I said, 'You will accept Tracy going up there because she will be our liaison. She will bring our daughter home, and she will bring her wife home,' " Johnson said.

One of Dice Johnson's duties as the escort was to take possession of her wife's property, including a velvet bag containing the wedding ring and St. Michael's medallion Johnson was wearing when she was killed. She was instructed to pass them on to her mother-in-law's casualty assistance officer. The night before she did, she slept with the jewelry, unsure if she would see the possessions again. The officer delivered them to Sandra Johnson, who immediately gave them back to her daughter-in-law.

"Every little step was a shaky step," said Dice Johnson. "You are definitely on uncertain ground."

Dice Johnson does not fault the Army. From the casualty officer to National Guard commanders, everyone did "the best they could," she said. In some instances, she was even surprised at her support. The condolence letter she received from President Barack Obama acknowledged Johnson as her wife.

If the DOMA is overturned before the one-year anniversary of the attack, Dice Johnson may become eligible for monthly survivor benefits, guaranteed health insurance and other financial compensation.

"My biggest thing, honestly, is to get her death certificate changed to married," she said. "That will be my victory."
As Qualified Men Dwindle, Military Looks For A Few Good Women
When the Pentagon said earlier this year that it would open ground combat jobs to women, it was cast in terms of giving women equal opportunities in the workplace — the military workplace.

But the move has practical considerations, too. The military needs qualified people to fill its ranks, and it's increasingly harder to find them among men.

"It's fairly common knowledge that our population of military-age young men, who qualify for the military, is declining," Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said in an interview with NPR just after the Pentagon announced that women no longer be excluded from ground combat jobs.
Too many potential male recruits have criminal records, drop out of high school or have drug problems. In addition, the rising obesity rate is also a factor.

Expanding The Candidate Pool

Dempsey and the joint chiefs looked out to the end of the decade and decided they had to recruit more women.

"As a very practical matter, we decided if in 2020 we're going to need these young ladies, and we're going to need to attract as much diversity and as much talent as we can possibly attract, if that's going to be the case, what are we waiting for?" he said

It's a serious concern. Less than 25 percent of young people — both male and female — can actually meet the standards for military enlistment today. Those standards disqualify more men than women. Young men account for three-fourths of all arrests, and in all 50 states, males have a higher high school dropout rate than females.

"Recruiters anecdotally will have fewer issues with a female applicant than they will with a male," says Kathleen Welker, who is with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky.

Opening more combat jobs to women will help the Army meet its goals, she says.

"It expands the pool of candidates who are eligible to enlist across the board," she says.

Setting Standards

But will women want to sign up for those new jobs in the infantry, armor and artillery units?

Bernard Rostker, a former undersecretary of defense for personnel, says he's doubtful many young women will choose those careers.
"We're not prepared to force women into combat positions. It's a very nontraditional role," he says. "The numbers would likely be quite small.

And then there's the question of whether women who apply can meet the tough physical standards for ground combat. Dempsey and other military leaders will soon review the training program. He said some existing standards — which include everything from pull-ups to carrying heavy loads — need to be revised.

"There are existing standards, many of which haven't been dusted off in a very long time, many of which have been narrowly focused just on physical standards but without the companion piece of psychological and intellectual standards," Dempsey said.

Statements like that are leading some military officers to complain privately that combat training will be watered down to allow more women to pass.

Meanwhile, some women already are trying to meet the existing physical standards. Last fall, two female Marines were the first to try and complete the grueling, 12-week-long Infantry Officer Course. They failed, along with about 20 percent of the men.
Army: No dispute overland in Gowthampura
BANGALORE: The Army said on Monday that the land on which a service road runs adjacent to its Army 515 Base Workshop in Gowthampura, near Ulsoor, is legitimately its land. They denied there was any dispute at all over this stretch.

In an official note, the Army alleged it had given the land for sewage lines but it was sought to be converted into a service road.

Army officials claimed that Ulsoor police did not co-operate with them in reconstructing demolished walls on the service road despite request and an FIR was registered on the issue of trespassing of its land.

It claimed that a mob was collected when Army personnel were building the walls on Saturday night and stones were hurled at them. "The stoning injured one of our people," the note claimed.

Two city inspectors have alleged that they were beaten up by Armymen when they sought to intervene between the mob and Army. They have filed a complaint against Army officers.

Deputy commissioner of police TG Krishna Bhat (East) said investigation is on and they are collecting evidence before taking further action.

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